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Desperate Acts and Compromises

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Abstract

This article expands on what Bernard Stiegler describes as “The Ordeal of Truth”. Through an evolutionary account of cognition and its exteriorization in human technology, I highlight a recurring tension in philosophy between the “as-if” (Kant, Vaihinger) nature of our models and representations, and the doubt that infects even our most stable understanding of the world. Truth is here associated to the process of metastabilization that characterizes the biological organism. The famous case of Clive Wearing’s severe amnesia, as well as the fctional treatment of amnesia in Christopher Nolan’s Memento, are recalled to highlight the connection between truth and memory, and more importantly the contingent character of the formation of thoughts (von Kleist), and the desperate nature of the construction of truths, through the evolutionarily conditioned “subjective necessity” (Hume) to link the before and the after, the cause and the efect. I show that this same ordeal is refected in the philosophy of science in what is known as “pessimistic meta induction” (going back to Poincaré’s notion of the “bankruptcy of science”), which I put into dialogue with the growing pessimism about knowledge in contemporary technological culture known as “post truth”. Finally, a possible way out of this pessimism is briefy sketched: a compromise such that, without recourse to objective truth, and in full acceptance of an always already biased relation to the world, future technologies might be designed to incrementally reduce our biases, through an intrinsic mapping of the relative falsity of our models, rather than through some idealized extrinsic relation to an unattainable noumenal real.
Vol.:(0123456789)
Foundations of Science
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-020-09764-z
1 3
COMMENTARY
Desperate Acts andCompromises
AlexanderWilson1
Accepted: 11 December 2020
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2021
Abstract
This article expands on what Bernard Stiegler describes as “The Ordeal of Truth”. Through
an evolutionary account of cognition and its exteriorization in human technology, I high-
light a recurring tension in philosophy between the “as-if” (Kant, Vaihinger) nature of our
models and representations, and the doubt that infects even our most stable understanding
of the world. Truth is here associated to the process of metastabilization that characterizes
the biological organism. The famous case of Clive Wearing’s severe amnesia, as well as the
fictional treatment of amnesia in Christopher Nolan’s Memento, are recalled to highlight
the connection between truth and memory, and more importantly the contingent character
of the formation of thoughts (von Kleist), and the desperate nature of the construction of
truths, through the evolutionarily conditioned “subjective necessity” (Hume) to link the
before and the after, the cause and the effect. I show that this same ordeal is reflected in
the philosophy of science in what is known as “pessimistic meta induction” (going back to
Poincaré’s notion of the “bankruptcy of science”), which I put into dialogue with the grow-
ing pessimism about knowledge in contemporary technological culture known as “post
truth”. Finally, a possible way out of this pessimism is briefly sketched: a compromise
such that, without recourse to objective truth, and in full acceptance of an always already
biased relation to the world, future technologies might be designed to incrementally reduce
our biases, through an intrinsic mapping of the relative falsity of our models, rather than
through some idealized extrinsic relation to an unattainable noumenal real.
Keywords Truth· Amnesia· Pessimistic induction· Technology· Science
8:07am I AM AWAKE
8:31am NOW I AM AWAKE
9:06am NOW I AM AWAKE
11:37am NOW I AM PERFECTLY COMPLETELY AWAKE (1st TIME)
Clive Wearing
* Alexander Wilson
contact@alexanderwilson.net
1 Institute ofResearch andInnovation, Paris, France
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Kleist: Selected Writings
  • Von Kleist
Von Kleist, H. (2004). Kleist: Selected Writings, trans. David Constantine. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
Newmarket Capital Group, Team Todd, I Remember Productions
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Nolan, C. M. (2000). Newmarket Capital Group, Team Todd, I Remember Productions.